A group of young actors from John Gray High School are hoping for the chance to prove themselves on the big stage at the Caribbean Secondary School Drama Festival in St. Lucia.

There’s just one catch. The students are some $38,000 short of their fundraising goal to get on the plane for the prestigious event.

The group are putting on an encore performance of the play, ‘Africa Slingshot’, at the Harquail Theatre next week in an effort to raise money for the trip.

Their teacher, Lesley-Ann Bernard, head of drama at John Gray, is also appealing to corporate sponsors to lend a hand.

She said the students had brought down the house when they put on the play, by Trinidadian writer Cicely Waite-Smith, at the Prospect Playhouse in December.

Now they have been invited to join other drama groups from across the Caribbean at the festival. They will take part in a series of workshops and pit their play against other countries in a performing arts equivalent of the CARIFTA track and field competition.

Bernard said it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the group to represent their country.

They planned and executed every aspect of the original performance, from costume design and marketing to stage management and lighting, as part of their Year 11 BTEC course.

She said putting on the play had given her students a new sense of belief in themselves.

John Gray High School students put on the play ‘Africa Slingshot’ at Prospect Playhouse last year.

“I have seen dramatic turnarounds in their confidence levels. For anyone to take a production from page to stage, you are talking about hours of rehearsals. For them to do that in three months, they had to be very motivated.

“I think to go to St. Lucia is important, not just for the craft, but because it shows them we are able to do more than we think we can.”

The play, ‘Africa Slingshot’, is a satirical comedy with a powerful message about the importance of understanding your own history and culture.

Bernard said she had specifically chosen it because it was something she felt the children could relate to.

“It is a very Caribbean play and I feel Cayman students are perhaps not exposed enough to themselves. We should see ourselves in our art,” she said.

Janicka Ebanks played the role of Miss Mary, a strict Christian grandmother who also dabbles in Obeah, in the play.

Janicka, who was also part of the fundraising and marketing team for the original production, said she was hopeful to get the chance to take the play to St. Lucia.

“We are going to blow this up and put Cayman up there.”

The students took the play from script to stage in less than three months as part of their course.

Janieka Barnette, who played the role of a villager and helped with costume design, said the students had already learned a lot from putting on the play.

“It was very nerve-racking. We had to do a lot of work to get ready for it, but at the end of the day, we pulled it off.”

Alexander Angel had one of the trickier parts in the play. In the role of ‘Big Syd’, he had to pretend to be hypnotised into believing he was a rhinoceros.

“I just went nuts,” he said.

Bernard said the students had done themselves proud and she believes they will represent Cayman well.

The students will perform their play at the Harquail Theatre on 21 May. There will be a 6:30pm drinks reception and fundraising activities before the performance.

For more information or to find out how to contribute, email Bernard at [email protected]

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